A dream for Baghdad | Thinkpiece | Architectural Review
Arthur Erickson’s 40-year-old plan to revive Abu Nuwas to its former glory has yet to come to fruition
Abu Nuwas, Baghdad’s once grand riverside boulevard, has weathered Iraq’s changing fortunes. It began life as an 18th-century embankment, a bulwark against flooding from the Tigris, but as Baghdad grew beyond its old city walls in the early 20th century, its prominence increased as a pedestrian thoroughfare. Around the time of Iraqi independence, it became one of the first roads for motor vehicles and eventually a popular picnic area in the 1930s and 1940s, as well as a riverfront idyll for the wealthy and their villas. The 1950s – both during the monarchy and after the 1958 revolution – marked its golden age as an entertainment and recreational hub, with families gathering at riverside cafés and swimming clubs. It was a centre for fun that would have inspired its eighth-century poet namesake, whose libidinous verse celebrated life’s pleasures.